LOUISVILLE — Ezra Paddock saw flashes of brilliance last year with his Monarch Coyotes.
A program that has toiled in mediocrity for over a decade, the Coyotes believe they have a roster this year that can make some noise at the Pepsi Center.
"One of the things you can see just a week into the regular season practice, is the amount of work they put in the off-season," said Paddock, whose team sent six wrestlers to state last season and five of them return this year. "The other guys in your programs get to see the other guys experience (going to state), and they start to get hungry to experience it too."
The desire to get better was evident right from the get-go. Paddock saw the pace and the tempo of the workouts in his room were much higher, "and the guys have basically come in, in mid-season form," he said.
Heading the list of returning state qualifiers is sophomore Cole Polluconi. As a freshman he showed great resilience, losing his first ever match at the Pepsi Center and then rallied to win five straight matches to get into the third place bout.
"We talked a lot before the state tournament about what to expect and you think you are mentally prepared for it and I still think the nerves got to us a little bit that first day," said Paddock, who wrestled for Centaurus during his high school days. "We would have liked a better showing, but at least a lot of these guys will have a chance to go back."
It is a solid sophomore class that also includes returning state qualifier Parker McQuade and both Alex Scott and Nate Pritchard. The Coyotes also are hoping for big things from freshmen Keegan Feenstra and Xander Rens.
The core of seniors has been influential to the program for four seasons. Taylor Dawal, Caden Feenstra and Ian Scott have placed their stamp on the program.
Scott, a heavyweight who recorded some high profile wins during his junior season, would just as soon forget about his trip to the state tournament last year. He dropped both of his matches, but knows he is gong to get another chance in arguably one of the toughest weight classes in 5A.
"I know there are some talented guys in my weight class and I've put in the time to be able to compete with them," said Scott, who won 30 matches a year ago. "I think as a team, we will be sending a few more guys this year."
The Coyotes will find out a lot about themselves during the first week of the season when they host the two-time Class 5A state champions from Arvada West on Dec. 2 and then will be part of the Broomfield duals on Dec. 5.
"You talk to any coach and they will tell you that building their programs starts with their youth program and having them buy it and be ready to compete when they walk into the high school," Paddock said. "These guys want to win a state championship and they know we are chasing some teams, but we are also very relevant."